If you are reading this, you are probably a lifelong learner, understand the advantages of that mindset, and hope to instill the same love of learning in your child. People who continue to learn outside school settings are generally happier and more successful than the norm. Learning is nothing more than acquiring new or enhancing existing knowledge. Children learn at phenomenal rates for the first three years. After that, the basics of walking, talking, and rudimentary socialization are in place and things slow down a little, which makes it a perfect time to partner with your child to develop the habit of lifelong learning.
Read, Listen, Watch, Interact
If you grew up loving books, your child may also develop that love. But books are no longer the only way to learn, and often they are not even the best. Auditory learners acquire new skills better if someone talks to them or they listen to a book. Visual learners may find YouTube to be their best ally in figuring out new things. And many people of all learning types benefit from active, hands-on learning in conjunction with reading, listening, and viewing.
I Never Thought of That
Appreciate and praise your child’s out of the box thinking. Creativity is natural in young children, and only with criticism does that instinct get buried. Support and reinforce unique problem solving and artistic creativity every chance you get. Great thinkers, artists and entrepreneurs did not break new ground by thinking like the pack.
I Want To
When you hear those three magic words, “I want to,” listen closely to what follows and encourage your child’s drive to learn. A child whose interests are treated us unimportant is a child who stops believing they can learn about whatever they want. A child who is interested in piano one day, insects the next, cooking the following week, and solar power after that is not flighty, but inquisitive. Except at school, life is not parceled out in units that build on each other. Encourage new interests, accept that some will be fleeting, and try not to be dismissive if your child’s newest interest is not one of yours.
Show, Don’t Tell
Let your child know about things you are learning. Children who see a parent struggling to learn a new language will be more likely to learn things on their own. And they will indirectly learn that imperfection is part of the process, but that the important thing is to try new things.
I Don’t Know But I Can Find Out
Encourage your child to ask questions about everything, but do not be embarrassed if you do not know the answer. If you do not know something, engage your child to learn with you as you seek an answer. You will learn something new as your child develops skills to answer their own questions.
How Did You Do That?
Watch one, do one, teach one is a tried and true way of mastering something new. For example, you might watch someone make a pie, afterwards you make one, then you teach the process to a friend. Let your child teach you a new skill. Getting to be the teacher, especially getting to teach an adult, will build a child’s confidence in the task at hand and that confidence will carry over to learning new things in the future.
By setting the example of lifelong learning and encouraging and supporting new interests, your child will be equipped to learn new things throughout their lifetime.